We planted raspberries and blackberries last year. What should we do with the dry branches and the very long [almost 8-9 ft] new branches that did not produce berries this year. I would like to have more fruit from the shrubs.
Thank you for writing to the Toronto Master Gardeners.
Raspberries and blackberries belong to a group called brambles, and share many growth characteristics. Their roots are perennial, but their branches (canes) live for only two years. In the first year, the new green canes grow vegetatively and do not flower; they then develop a brown bark and go dormant for the winter. In the following spring the canes wake up, flower, produce fruit, and die. Since new canes are produced by the bush every year, fruit production is continuous after the first year.
Therefore the long, non-fruit bearing canes on your bushes are new and will not bear fruit until next year. You can prune the new canes back, say 1/4 to 1/3, to induce branching. Also prune out all dead canes to the ground. After harvesting the berries, prune out all the old canes to give the new canes more room to grow.
For more information on how to care for your raspberry and blackberry bushes for maximum yield, please refer to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs fact sheet on Raspberries and Blackberries for Home Gardens.
Best of luck for a bountiful harvest.